scenes

A Book Review

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker, based upon her review of the book, “Thieves Break In,” by Cristina Sumners, Bantam Books, 2004, a British detective story.

The following are the real, actual Chapter headings of this book.

Chapter 1 – Late July 1997, Wednesday – (In which we are introduced to the victim, one Rob Hillman, who is missing. The last sentence states he’s been found. So far, so good. I look forward to some interesting detective work.)

Chapter 2 – January 1997 – Almost Seven Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 3 – Summer 1933 – Sixty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 4 – Wednesday – The Day of Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 5 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 6 – June 1944, Shortly After D-Day – Fifty-three Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 7 – Thursday – The Day After Rob Hillman’s Death, About Seven in the Evening

Chapter 8 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 9 – May 1945, Two Weeks After VE Day – Fifty-two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 10 – Saturday Morning – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 11 – April 1997, During the Easter Holidays – Three Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 12 – June 1962 – Thirty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 13 – Saturday Lunchtime – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 14 – Early July 1997 – Three Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 15 – July 1963 – Thirty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 16 – Early July 1997, Sunday – Four Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 17 – Mid July 1997 – Two Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 18 – Spring 1972 – Twenty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 19 – Lunchtime – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 20 – The Monday Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 21 – Twenty Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 22 – Monday Midafternoon – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 23 – A Wednesday in Late July 1997 – Thirty Minutes Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 24 – Winter 1995 – Two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 25 – Monday – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death, Three Hours After Sir Gregory’s Death

Chapter 26 – Minutes Later

Chapter 27 – A Few Minutes Earlier

Chapter 28 – Two Days Later (mystery solved!)

THE END

Dear Writers,

Now, I consider myself only a moderately orderly person. And a fan of detective stories. Especially British detective stories. Any detective story with a sense of humor, but this one really put me to the test.

I’m not adverse to scanning, and dumping, the dull, the witless, the inane. If it doesn’t grab me in the first three chapters, I may give it a spit and polish and go on to other things, but believe it or not, in spite of its time frame acrobatics, this one held me in there.

I read it all, clear to the end, while flipping back and forth to keep reminding myself which decade we were in. It was like trying to read on a bus traveling fifty miles an hour over a very bumpy road.

The author’s first acknowledgement is for her “splendid” Editor, and I quote: “for refraining from murdering me while I kept her waiting an extra year for the manuscript.” One wonders if that editor is still on the job. Or maybe in a rest home somewhere. Or waiting tables in a peaceful kindergarten where there’s regular food fights.

Nevertheless, dear readers, would you believe? This is a good story!

But please, dear writers, have some mercy.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Reverse Things

Your character is afraid of their own shadow. They creep through life trying to never disturb the dust of living, yet life still happens to them.

Write a scene like that with your character.

Then, throw the whole scene into reverse.

Write the same scene with your a brave, fearless personality at play, loving life, embracing anything thrown their way.

Which is the true definition of the character you want in your story? Is it one of these extremes or a compromise between the two.

Use this technique to not only learn more about your character, especially to identify strengths and weakness, but also to mix things up. Sometimes a brave and tough character has moments of fear, when they feel helpless and out of control. What would it take to make them feel that way? Might be an interesting part of your story.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

November 26 Prompt – The Magnifying Glass

The following prompt is from one of our Writers in the Grove members for our NaNoWriMo prompt-a-day project for November 2016.

A little mystery prompt?

She picked up the large, gold magnifying glass from the desk.

Check out our list of prompts for even more inspiration.

NaNoWriMo Tips: Play with Time

Writers can make a moment last pages, even a whole chapter. Or they can make a sentence last a week.

As you work on your novel and stories, consider how you use time. Stretch it to make a moment last, compress it to add tension or skip the story ahead.

Consider adding a race against time element to your story. The clock is ticking and your hero has only so much time to accomplish the task and save everyone.

The groundbreaking television show 24 told the story in real-time, so to speak. Each hour increment in a 24 hour period represented 60 minutes of the story line. They even used a clock to help track the hour during each episode. It was an exciting story device that kept the viewer on the edge of their seat as the drama raced forward.

Doctor Who - the Stolen Earth screencap.

In Doctor Who, the Doctor and his companions and the other characters in the stories can shift between time within a few seconds not just on this planet, but across multiple planets and galaxies. In the finales of Season 4, the time traveling machine called the Tardis was controlled to dial through time, allowing the Doctor and Donna to watch an event that could take thousands or millions of years to complete, helping the viewer experience it with them, adding drama to the story line. In the book and BBC show, Johnny and the Bomb by Terry Pratchett, young kids discover a woman who can travel through time with a shopping cart, and go back and forth to World War II to prevent a bomb from exploding in their 1990s time period. Creative manipulation of time lines in stories is found everywhere, helping not only add drama, but to also help the reader understand what’s going on.

As you write, ensure the reader is with you on the passage of time. Do they track that it has been minutes or years between scenes? How have you made that clear?

It’s challenging to keep a reader on track with your creative manipulations of time. Flashbacks, backstory, dream sequences, future thoughts, movements of time between scenes…work it carefully, dragging the reader through the space time continuum.

Help them keep up with the time and the pace of your story, but have fun with how you use time.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

NaNoWriMo Tips: How Many Ways to Write a Scene

A novel is a collection of scenes, held together by chapters. During NaNoWriMo, you will write dozens of scenes, each one adding to the plot, taking the reader, and your characters, on a journey.

Think about a single scene. How many ways can you write it?

Let’s set the stage. A woman is sitting in her car in rush hour traffic, going nowhere. The man in the car next to her turns his head and looks at her.

How many ways can we tell this story?

  • From the perspective of the woman?
  • From the perspective of the man?
  • From onlookers watching the two from their cars?
  • What if it is hot out and their windows are open?
  • What if it is cold and they have to wipe the condensation from the window to even see each other?
  • What if one of their cars has smoke or steam coming out from under the hood?
  • What if one has a coffee cup or a lunch bag on the roof of their vehicle?
  • What if one vehicle has a low tire?
  • What if one of the car is an expensive luxury car and the other isn’t?
  • What if one of them is poor and just evicted from their home and their car is their only safe place?
  • What if they know each other?
  • What if they knew each other as teenagers?
  • What if they are married?
  • What if they were married and just drove away from the lawyers office after signing the divorce papers, and each are the last person they want to see?
  • What if there is a dog in one car?
  • What if one of them is depressed?
  • What if one of them just got a raise and is overexcited?
  • What if one really likes the look of the other?

We could go on and on with all of the perspectives, points of view, and what ifs.

What if the scene is critical to the story, and you don’t want to go off on a bunch of wild “what if” theories. How could you tell the story differently and keep the story line the same?

  • What is the emotional state of the characters? Can you change one or both of them?
  • What is around them that they have to or might interact with? A gear shift? Squeaking brakes? The steering wheel? How would they handle it?
  • Use your senses. What do they smell, feel, temperature, body pains, body positions, hear, see? Which details add or subtract from the scene?
  • What if you threw another character into the mix? A person pops up in the backseat or someone honks behind them? How will each character respond?
  • Can you show the scene from the perspective of a memory?
  • What if they are anticipating seeing each other in traffic and it hasn’t happened?

Other than changing the location, time, and weather, brainstorm all the different ways you could write the scene and then pick from these when it is time to edit – in December.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.